Page images

With gentle penetration, though unseen,
Shoots invisible virtue ev'n to the deep;
So wondrously was set his station bright.
There lands the Fiend, a spot like which perhaps
Astronomer in the Sun's lucent orb

Through his glazed optic tube yet never saw.
The place he found beyond expression bright,
Compar'd with aught on earth, metal or stone;
Not all parts like, but all alike inform'd
With radiant light, as glowing iron with fire;
If metal, part seem'd gold, part silver clear;
If stone, carbuncle most, or chrysolite,
Ruby or topaz, to the twelve that shone
In Aaron's breast-plate, and a stone besides
Imagined rather oft than elsewhere seen,
That stone, or like to that which here below
Philosophers in vain so long have sought;
In vain, though by their pow'rful art they bind
Volatile Hermes, and call up unbound
In various shapes old Proteus from the sea,
Drain'd through a limbec to his native form.
What wonder then if fields and regions here
Breathe forth Elixir pure, and rivers run
Potable gold, when with one virtuous touch
Th' arch-chemic Sun, so far from us remote,
Produces with terrestrial humour mix'd
Here in the dark so many precious things
Of colour glorious and effect so rare?
Here matter new to gaze the Devil met
Undazzled; far and wide his eye commands;
For sight no obstacle found here, nor shade,
But all sunshine, as when his beams at noon
Culminate from th' equator, as they now
Shot upward still direct, whence no way round
Shadow from body opaque can fall; and th' air,
No where so clear, sharpen'd his visual ray
To objects distant far, whereby he soon
Saw within ken a glorious Angel stand,









603. Hermes, or Mercury; Proteus was a sea-god, celebrated as is well known for the variety of shapes he had the power of taking; the ancients meant to express, under the name of this fabulous being, the first principle of things. The stone alluded to is that by which philosophers hoped to turn all things into gold.

The same whom John saw also in the Sun.

His back was turn'd, but not his brightness hid:
Of beaming sunny rays a golden tiar


Circled his head, nor less his locks behind

Illustrious on his shoulders fledge with wings

Lay waving round. On some great charge employ'd
He seem'd, or fix'd in cogitation deep.
Glad was the Spirit impure, as now in hope
To find who might direct his wand'ring flight
To Paradise, the happy seat of Man,


His journey's end, and our heginning woe.
But first he casts to change his proper shape,
Which else might work him danger or delay:
And now a stripling Cherub he appears,
Not of the prime, yet such as in his face
Youth smiled celestial, and to ev'ry limb
Suitable grace diffused, so well he feign'd:
Under a coronet his flowing hair



In curls on either cheek play'd; wings he wore

Of many a colour'd plume, sprinkled with gold;
His habit fit for speed succinct, and held

Before his decent steps a silver wand.

He drew not nigh unheard: the Angel bright, 645
Ere he drew nigh, his radiant visage turn'd,

Admonish'd by his ear, and straight was known
Th' Arch-Angel Uriel, one of the seven

Who in God's presence, nearest to his throne,

Stand ready at command, and are his eyes


That run through all the Heav'ns, or down to th' Earth Bear his swift errands over moist and dry,

O'er sea and land: him Satan thus accosts:

Uriel, for thou of those sev'n Spirits that stand

In sight of God's high throne, gloriously bright, 655
The first art wont his great authentic will
Interpreter through highest Heav'n to bring,
Where all his sons thy embassy attend;
And here art likeliest, by Supreme decree,
Like honour to obtain, and as his eye

To visit oft this new creation round;

623. See Rev, xix. 17.

627. Instead of fledged for softness.

643. Succinct ready or prepared.


644. Decent, used in the Latin sense, graceful and beautiful. 650. Zech. iv. 10. Tobit xii. 15. Rev. i. 4. v. 6. viii. 2.

Unspeakable desire to see, and know

All these his wondrous works, but chiefly Man,
His chief delight and favour; him for whom
All these his works so wondrous he ordain'd,
Hath brought me from the choirs of Cherubim
Alone thus wand'ring. Brightest Seraph, tell
In which of all these shining orbs hath Man
His fixed seat, or fixed seat hath none,
But all these shining orbs his choice to dwell;
That I may find him, and with secret gaze
Or open admiration him behold,

On whom the great Creator hath bestow'd



Worlds, and on whom hath all these graces pour'd; That both in him and all things, as is meet,

The Universal Maker we may praise,

Who justly hath driv'n out his rebel foes
To deepest Hell; and to repair that loss
Created this new happy race of Men

To serve him better: wise are all his ways.
So spake the false Dissembler unperceived;
For neither Man nor Angel can discern
Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks
Invisible, except to God alone,



By his permissive will, thro' Heav'n and Earth: 685
And oft though Wisdom wake, Suspicion sleeps
At Wisdom's gate, and to Simplicity

Resigns her charge, while Goodness thinks no ill
Where no ill seems: which now for once beguiled
Uriel, though regent of the Sun, and held
The sharpest sighted Spirit of all in Heav'n;
Who to the fraudulent impostor foul

In his uprightness answer thus return'd:

Fair Angel, thy desire, which tends to know The works of God, thereby to glorify



The great Work-Master, leads to no excess

That reaches blame, but rather merits praise

The more it seems excess, that led thee hither
From thy empyreal mansion thus alone,

To witness with thine eyes what some perhaps 706
Contented with report hear only' in Heav'n:
For wonderful indeed are all his works,
Pleasant to know, and worthiest to be all
Had in remembrance always with delight:

But what created mind can comprehend
Their number, or the wisdom infinite



That brought them forth, but hid their causes deep?
I saw when at his word the formless mass,
This world's material mould, came to a heap:
Confusion heard his voice, and wild Uproar
Stood ruled, stood vast Infinitude confined;
Till at his second bidding Darkness fled,
Light shone, and Order from Disorder sprung:
Swift to their sev'ral quarters hasted then

The cumbrous elements, Earth, Flood, Air, Fire; 715
And this ethereal quintessence of Heav'n
Flew upward, spirited with various forms,
That roll'd orbicular, and turn'd to stars
Numberless, as thou seest, and how they move:
Each had his place appointed, each his course; 720
The rest in circuit walls this universe.
Look downward on that globe, whose hither side
With light from hence, though but reflected, shines;
That place is Earth, the seat of Man; that light
His day, which else, as th' other hemisphere,
Night would invade; but there the neighb'ring moon
(So call that opposite fair star) her aid
Timely' interposes, and her monthly round


Still ending, still renewing, through mid Heav'n,
With borrow'd light her countenance triform
Hence fills and empties to enlighten th' Earth,
And in her pale dominion checks the night.
That spot to which I point is Paradise,
Adam's abode, those lofty shades his bow'r.


Thy way thou canst not miss, me mine requires. 735
Thus said, he turn'd; and Satan bowing low,

As to superior Spirits is wont in Heav'n,
Where honour due and rev'rence none neglects,
Took leave, and tow'rd the coast of earth beneath,
Down from th' ecliptic, sped with hoped success, 740
Throws his steep flight in many an aery wheel,
Nor stay'd, till on Niphates' top he lights.

730. Triform, so called from her increase and decrease towards east and west, and her fulness.

742. Niphates, a mountain on the borders of Armenia, near which Paradise is supposed to have been situated.

[ocr errors]



Satan now in prospect of Eden, and nigh the place where e must now attempt the bold enterprise which he undertook alone against God and Man, falls into many doubts with himself, and many passions, fear, envy, and despair; but at length confirms himself in evil, journeys on to Paradise, whose outward prospect and situation is described, overleaps the bounds, sits in the shape of a cormorant on the Tree of Life, as highest in the garden, to look about him. The garden described: Satan's first sight of Adam and Eve; his wonder at their excellent form and happy state, but with resolution to work their fall; overhears their discourse, thence gathers that the Tree of Knowledge was forbidden them to eat of, under penalty of Death; and thereon intends to found his temptation, by seducing them to transgress; then leaves them a while, to know further of their state by some other means. Meanwhile Uriel, descending on a sun-beam, warns Gabriel, who had in charge the gate of Paradise, that some evii Spirit had escaped the deep, and passed at noon by his sphere in the shape of a good Angel down to Paradise, discovered after by his furious gestures in the Mount. Gabriel promises to find him ere morning. Night coming on, Adam and Eve discourse of going to their rest: their bower described; their evening worship. Gabriel drawing forth his bands of night-watch to walk the round of Paradise, appoints two strong Angels to Adam's bower, lest the evil Spirit should be there doing some harm to Adam or Eve sleeping; there they find him at the ear of Eve, tempting her in a dream, and bring him, though unwilling, to Gabriel; by whom questioned, he scornfully answers, prepares resistance, but hindered by a sign from Heaven, flies out of Paradise.

O FOR that warning voice, which he who saw
Th' Apocalypse heard cry in Heav'n aloud,
Then when the Dragon, put to second rout,
Came furious down to be revenged on men,
Woe to th' inhabitants on earth!' that now,

[ocr errors]

While time was, our first parents had been warn'd
The coming of their secret foe, and 'scaped,
Haply so 'scaped his mortal snare: for now

Satan, now first inflamed with rage, came down,
The tempter ere th' accuser of mankind,
To wreck on innocent frail man his loss
Of that first battle, and his flight to Hell:
Yet not rejoicing in his speed, though bold


1. There is great propriety in the opening of the present book. The grand subject of the relation which St. John gave of the Apocalypse or Revelation he received, is the overthrow of Satan, whose first attempts upon Man's purity and happiness form the ground-work of this part of the poem.

« PreviousContinue »